VIOLENT CONFLICTS IN NIGERIA: PERSPECTIVES ON PASTORAL INSECURITY IN THE RURAL AREAS
OPENING REMARKS DELIVERED BY DR. SULE BELLO AT THE CONFERENCE ORGANIZED BY ARADA AND THE NETWORK FOR JUSTICE ON THE THEME OF “VIOLENT CONFLICTS IN NIGERIA: PERSPECTIVES ON PASTORAL IN SECURITY IN THE RURAL AREAS” AT MAMBAYYA HOUSE, KANO ON SATURDAY 31ST MAY 2014
The objective of the conference is to bring together relevant stakeholders that are critical to formulating and implementing the nations economic development agenda with a view to addressing the critical need for adopting and formalizing a programme designed to secure as well as modernize the agricultural sector, in general, and the livestock sub-sector in particular. Those familiar with Nigeria’s livestock production sub-sector know that it is primarily anchored in the pastoral activities of the Fulbe speaking people. The rearing of cattle, sheep and goats along with other bye-products on which most Nigerians depend for their nutritional needs is only one aspect of the important contributions this sub-sector provides. It is also important to draw attention to the extent the subsector supports the practice and development organic agriculture in Nigeria. In addition it also provides raw material for industrial production in the form of hides and skins, bones etc. The sub-sector also generates employment to those directly involved in livestock production as well as many others indirectly involved in the processing and marketing of its various products.
It is for the above reasons, among many others, that many people have consistently called for the active development of the sector in two very important ways. The first through the provision of facilities needed for its growth and development in terms of pasture grounds, cattle routes, veterinary service centres, cattle markets and the provision of security against cattle rustlers. The second is through the gradual and systematic modernization of the sub-sector in a manner that renders it less and less dependent on perennial movements over long distances in search of pasture and fodder for animals. The fact that not much has so far been achieved in this regard is part of the unfortunate history of the neglect of the agricultural sector to which the country has been subjected due to the collapse of the First and Second Republics. With the transition from military rule to the Fourth Republic many thought that the fortunes of the country’s agricultural sector, in general, and that of the livestock production sub-sector, in particular, would change for the better. This is yet to happen.
On the contrary the widespread development of “insecurity” in Nigeria has also affected the subsector very negatively. In the first place the practice of cattle rustling by various criminals has become more pronounced. In the second place some violent activities in the form of attacks targeting Fulani pastoralists and cattle markets also seem to be on the increase. Thirdly we have also witnessed many criminally oriented groups who, while impersonating the Fulanis, indulge in committing various dastardly acts with a view not only to provoking hatred against the group, but also promoting conflicts between them and many others. Similarly there are a number of cases in which members of the security agencies are alleged to have indulged in extra judicial killings of pastoralists. In addition to these worrisome developments there are also a number of cases involving genuine conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in various parts of the country which require proper and just treatment from public officials. There is thus the need to enforce security in a manner that is just and fair, as well as constitutional, in opposition to any form of sectionalism.
The Fulani people of Nigeria have contributed to the development, evolution and integrity of our nation in many ways. In addition to their contributions in the economic sphere it is to be noted that due to the nature of their business they are to be found involved with virtually all the sedentary groups in the country. The generally beneficial, and symbiotic, nature of this relationship is evident in the manner in which they are integrated into the many local cultural systems in the country, in addition to the manner in which they also impact an various communities. Thus in many cases they are even seen as integral part of the many cultural groups with which they associate. Thus some, wrongly, refer to them as Hausa-Fulani rather than simply Fulani. Such writers tend to forget that the Fulani are also found among the Yoruba and Igbo speaking peoples of Nigeria where they adopt the major languages in those localities in addition to their own. Indeed the intermixture between the Fulbe and many other peoples in Nigeria is a very important story in constructive social development that deserves greater attention.
It is obvious that in order to ensure security, development and modernization in the livestock subsector the government need to wake up to its responsibilities of protecting the lives and properties of the pastoralists in addition to providing them facilities that will guarantee the greater economic development of the country.
Finally it is imperative that the government, as well as all other stakeholders in the Nigeria project, do everything to ensure that pastoralists, like everyone else, enjoy their rights as citizens of the country under the protection of the state. Where they transgress against the law they need, and deserve, to be brought to justice in line with the constitutional provisions of the country. Where criminal acts are committed against them they similarly deserve justice to be done in their favour.
Perhaps one might add here, for the benefit of the state and the media, the need to avoid stereotyping a whole people on the basis of the conduct of an individual or group of individuals associated with that group, as this is but only a recipe for the promotion of hatred, division and injustice.
The conference has called various resource persons to look at the various issues required to address the development of pastoralism in Nigeria, along with the promotion of unity and peaceful co-existence in the country.
You are invited to fully participate in the workshop in order to contribute to the issues under consideration please.
Thank you and God bless.
31st May 2014